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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Today I came across some pics from long-long-ago.
Any idea who these colorfully dressed soldiers are? Are they from Bhutan, Nepal or Tibet?
Some of the SMLEs seem to have squared front sight protectors. Ishys supplied by India perhaps?

Atleast the pic of the parade in front of the temple appears to be taken in Kathmandu.

And some OT pics of the flight over the hump and what lies beneath:)

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The nicest Khukri + SMLE photo that I have ever seen is the one which Heatseeker posted here a few months ago.
That and some of these paintings - they always make my day:)
I hope Heatseeker doesnt mind it if I post his photo here - it really is irresistible;)

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
And in case any of you folks think that the Gurkhas may have lost some of their regimental gloss, here are some photos from an album of a friend who is an officer in a Gurkha Regiment of the Indian Army. These photos were taken when he was posted in Jammu and Kashmir.

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
And to wind up this long photo essay, here is some RECENT news from the south of India. Strictly OT :)

Three Army regiments merge

Udhagamandalam (PTI): The Indian Army's old regiments -- the Madras Regiment, 16th Cavalry and 4-Field Regiments of --on Saturday became a single entitity with the three being formally affiliated at a function at the Madras Regimental Centre at nearby Wellington.

The affiliation (merger) would encompass greater understanding of each others combat potential, harmonize and encourage active participation in each others sporting and adventure activities, an MRC release said here.

This would also provide greater synergy amonst all ranks through deeper understanding of each others traditions, culture and heritage, it said.

Because of the deep roots of the regiments with South India and the fact that a substantial portion of the core manpower of the 16th Cavalry and 4 Field regiment were originally from the Madras Regiment, the regiments were formally affiliated through a 'memorandum of understanding,' it said.

The Madras Regiment came into being on Dec 4, 1758, when two battalions were raised under Col Robert Clive, consequent to the seige of Fort St George in then Chennapatnam (Chennai) by the French.

16th Light Cavalry regiment was raised prior to 1776 in the Service of Nawab of Arcot as the 3rd regiment of the Native Cavalry. This is the senior most regiment of Armoured Corps, standing right most of a joint ceremonial parade and carries two standards, a privilege unique in the whole of the Common Wealth.

The 4-Field Regiment was raised in May 1956 as a Field regiment in Hyderabad under the 27 Mountain Artillery Brigade, by converting the 8th Battalion.


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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
And some more photos taken in the Himalayas, and surrounding areas.
One is of me in Shimla (well, it is in the foothills:) ) and another is of a Muj in the HinduKush mountain ranges.
A sprinkling of other equipment as well, mostly British in origin, with some American jewels thrown in. The rocket launcher was gifted by USA to the Pakistanis and promptly confiscated by the Indians:)

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
and the rest...
These are mostly recent photos. Some of these are local militia known as the Village Defence Committees, formed in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Of course nothing in India escapes controversy, I guess thats what democracy is all about;) Quarterly Issue No.27, February 2007

Village Defence Committees in Doda: Solution or Problem?
Yoginder Sikand


In 1995, in the wake of a gruesome massacre of a large group of Hindus by militants, the Government of India hit upon a new idea to tackle militancy in the Doda district of war-torn Jammu and Kashmir. And so the concept of Village Defence Committees (VDCs) was born. Given the fact that Doda is an extremely mountainous area, with little hamlets scattered over vast, treacherous and thickly forested slopes, it was found impossible for the Army to be present everywhere. Forming VDCs by arming villagers themselves to tackle militants was thought to be a more feasible option. It was also probably thought of as a major money-saver. Each member of the VDC was to be paid a humble sum of Rs. 500 per month for his services, saving the Government crores of rupees that it would otherwise have to spend on stationing troops in remote villages far from the main roads.

Starting first in Doda, VDCs were later set up in other militancy-affected parts of Jammu and Kashmir that have a sizeable Hindu minority presence -- Rajouri, Poonch and some areas in the Udhampur district. According to a recent report, there are today over 3700 VDCs in the whole of Jammu and Kashmir. Exact figures of the number of VDCs in Doda district are not easily available and varying estimates are given. According to some sources, whose veracity cannot be verified but which appear somewhat reasonable, there are over now 1500 VDCs in Doda district and their number seems to be growing. With each VDC consisting of roughly eight members, each of whom is given a weapon by the authorities, this means that there are some 12,000 or more armed civilians in Doda working for the VDC network.

Members of a VDC are inhabitants of a particular village. They are selected by the village elders and their names later approved of by the authorities, who provide each of them with a .303 rifle. Their duties consist of patrolling the village, defending it from militants and providing the authorities with information on the militants’ movements.

In theory, the idea of the VDCs might sound appealing, and in many places VDCs proved able to stave off militant attacks. Militants were reluctant to enter villages that had VDCs and in some such villages VDC members engaged in gun-battles with militants, forcing them to flee. But that, however, is not the whole story. Over time, it emerged, some VDCs were actually generating grave problems of their own, which the authorities often chose to ignore. And today, the issue of the VDCs has assumed the form of a major controversy in Doda.

One reason for this has to do with the communal composition of the VDCs. The vast majority of the VDC members consist of Hindus, although Muslims form a slender majority of the population of Doda district.

”Hindus are the major target of the militants, who want to force us to flee Doda. So, naturally, we need VDCs to protect us”, says Ramesh, a Hindu shopkeeper from Udrana, a village near Bhadarwah. “If it were not for the fear that the VDCs are able to instill, the militants would have succeeded by now in driving us all out of the district”, Sunil Kumar, a student from Kishtwar, tells me.

There is, of course, an element of truth in this argument. Militants might be reluctant to enter villages where civilians have weapons to take them on. That is, in fact, what Saleem, a surrendered militant I met, told me. “But”, says Nabi Bakhsh, a farmer from a village near Thathri, “militants might well be tempted to attack precisely those villages that have VDCs because the villagers there have guns given by the state and are paid by the state and are seen as agents of the state”. “And”, he adds, ”the .303 rifles that the VDCs have are a poor match for the weapons that many militants possess and so the VDCs are often not effective against the militants and are unable to resist them. If the militants can storm heavily fortified army camps, how will a couple of .303 rifles keep them away?”

Naveen, a student from Doda, somewhat agrees. “The VDC members receive only a very short training and are not able to handle their weapons in the same sophisticated way as the militants. They receive only a paltry stipend month and often they do not get this money for months on end”.

Several people I met in Doda tell me about how, in many places, VDC members have become something like a law unto themselves. A policeman I chatted up at a dhaba near Thathri complains, “Government servants are not allowed to become members of the VDCs. College youth, too, effectively cannot, because they spend much of their time outside the village. So, many VDC members are village touts, with little or no education. Many of them are goondas of bad character.”

Stories abound of VDC members using their guns to settle personal rivalries. Some are even said to misuse their authority to loot shops, abduct women and even to kill their personal enemies. And the victims of these excesses are not just Muslims but in several cases, Hindus, too. But what is perhaps most disturbing is that several VDC members, being actively used by right-wing Hindu groups, are now playing a major role in further exacerbating the communal divide in Doda, already wide enough thanks to over fifteen years of unmitigated violence and atrocities on civilians by both militants as well as the Armed Forces.

As a recent editorial in the widely-respected Jammu-based daily Kashmir Times aptly put it, many VDC members in Doda have “become an unquestioned authority in their own right, have been found resorting to terror tactics or indulging in killings to settle their own personal scores, often causing greater violation of human rights by targeting civilians”. “Not only have the VDCs caused greater communal and ethnic divides”, it goes on, “their very existence defies any international law or law of the land”.

Most VDCs in Doda are designed on strictly communal lines, consisting of members of only one community. The vast majority of VDCs in the district are Hindu, a much smaller number are Muslim and only a relatively few consist of members of both communities. This, in effect, has meant that the state has been arming principally members of a single community, while the other major community in the district has, in this regard, been sidelined. Naturally, this imbalance in such a sensitive matter as handing out weapons to civilians has led to considerable resentment among Doda’s Muslims.

”When the VDCs were first formed, Muslims were offered them but they refused to take them”, says Rajesh, a fervent BJP supporter in Bhadarwah. “This was”, he explains, “because many of them supported the militants and so did not face any threat from them. Also, some Muslims who were opposed to the militants refused to accept the offer of VDCs from the authorities, fearing that this would incur the wrath of the militants, who would sooner or later kill them off.”

Gul Mohammad from Doda somewhat agrees, but adds, ”Many more Muslims than Hindus have been killed by militants in Doda, being accused of being informers or pro-India or even for resisting extortion. So, Muslims, too, deserve VDCs. By not giving us enough VDCs the government is only displaying its anti-Muslim character.” “In some cases”, he tells me, “Muslims who felt threatened by militants were too scared to ask for VDCs because if they received weapons from the authorities and these were snatched by militants, they would wrongly be accused of being hand-in-glove with the militants. And so they would have been battered from both sides - by the militants as well as the armed forces.”

In the wake of the May 2006 massacre of several Hindus in Kulhand, a remote hamlet near Doda, the BJP launched what it called an India-wide ‘Save Doda’ campaign. One of the major demands made by the BJP was that in order to tackle militancy in Doda, VDCs should be further strengthened by expanding their numbers and providing their members with higher salaries and more sophisticated weapons. BJP leaders even went to the extent of suggesting that Jammu and Kashmir be handed over to the present Gujarat government, headed by the notorious mass-killer Narendra Modi, presumably for some sort of a 'final solution' to the on-going conflict, or what an editorial in the Kashmir Times rightly denounced as a “Sinister Hindutva Plan to Repeat Gujarat in J&K”.

Senior BJP leader and former Delhi Chief Minister, Sahib Singh Verma, stirred a major storm when, in the course of the BJP’s ‘Save Doda’ campaign in Jammu, he announced a reward of one lakh rupees for every civilian who shot dead a ‘militant’. This announcement met with loud protest, for it was pointed out that this could well be taken as a call for Hindus to shoot just about any Muslim (and not just ‘militants’) who could easily be branded as a ‘militant’. Faced with angry protests, BJP leaders then hurriedly announced that the reward was meant for VDC members only. But that did not seem to mollify opponents of the BJP, who rightly saw the announcement as added evidence of the fact that VDCs had now become a major factor in further complicating inter-communal relations in Doda district, being actively courted by the BJP to promote its sinister Hindutva fascist agenda.

“VDCs were the brainchild of the BJP-RSS and Jagmohan” says a seasoned politician from Kishtwar. “Most of the early VDC members were ex-servicemen, almost all of whom were Hindus”. “They were and are actively backed by the BJP, and many of them are BJP sympathizers. At election time many of them canvass for the BJP and even serve as the party’s polling agents”, he adds.

“And so many VDC-walas have become tools of the BJP and are serving its interests in Doda”. “When BJP leaders recently announced a reward of one lakh rupees to every civilian, later changed to every VDC member, who kills a militant”, he goes on, “it gave further impetus to the BJP’s anti-Muslim tirade. Now, who is to stop any VDC-wala from picking on any Muslim, who may just be someone whom he has personal scores to settle with and who may not be a militant at all, kill him, declare him to have been a militant and pick up a hefty reward’?”

This man’s argument appears to have considerable merit in it. In Hindu-dominated parts of towns and villages across Doda, I came across posters put up by local BJP activists calling for the Army to take over Doda and for VDCs to be given more sophisticated arms and more pay. Using the VDC card, the BJP clearly appears to be projecting itself as the ‘savior’ of Doda’s Hindus, even though this means further antagonizing the district’s Muslims, many of who, because of the way the BJP is seeking to use the VDCs, are increasingly seeing the VDCs as, in a sense, directed ultimately against them, and not just against the militants. Consequently, they find the argument that Muslims may not remain safe at the hands of the VDCs if the BJP is able to press them into service to promote its anti-Muslim agenda even more compelling.

Many Muslim villagers complain of what they see as the ‘double-standards’ on the part of the state on the question of VDCs. “Three thousand and more Muslims were butchered in less than a week and tens of thousands left homeless in the state-sponsored, Hindutva-inspired, anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat”, says a Muslim man in Gandoh. “What did the state do then for Muslims? Instead of helping them, it did, and is still doing, everything to see that they are crushed”.

“In contrast”, he says, “the number of Hindus killed in Doda by militants in the last fifteen years is about a tenth of that number, but yet the state is going out of its way to arm them through the VDCs. If the Indian State is truly secular and democratic, as it proclaims to the world, why has it not thought it proper to set up Muslim VDCs in Gujarat?”

“True”, he adds, “minorities, wherever they may be, often feel insecure, but surely the state should treat them equally. I admit that Hindus in Doda do feel insecure and the state must protect them from militants, but why has it not done anything similar for Muslims in Gujarat? Seeing Muslims treated by the state and the Hindus in Gujarat in such a despicable way, many Muslims here are saying, ‘How can we stay in a country where Muslim lives count for nothing?’. If India is serious about winning the hearts of the Kashmiris, Hindu fascism has to be countered, not appeased, as the VDC scheme seems to be doing, with the BJP seeking to hijack it”. “The Government must be even handed in its approach to both Hindu and Muslim extremists, countering both equally consistently. But, unfortunately, this is not the case”, he rues.

Soon after the brutal massacre of over a dozen hapless Hindus in Kulhand the government went ahead and sanctioned 85 new VDCs in the area around Kulhand, providing arms almost entirely to Hindus alone. While many Hindus welcomed this move, many Muslims, while understanding the need for Hindus to be protected, also feared that the weapons sanctioned to the VDCs could one day be used against them and not just the militants if the BJP is not prevented from misusing them.

Almost all these new VDCs, like the earlier ones, are exclusively Hindu. In Doda town I saw a large crowd of Muslims from outlying villages milling outside the government office where VDC applications are processed, bitter about the refusal of their application for VDCs to be sanctioned in their own villages. I was told that only one group of eight Muslims, from a village near Premnagar, on the way from Doda to Kishtwar, had their request for a VDC granted in the days immediately after the Kulhand massacre. There could, however, be some more such cases, but the overall number remains small.

“It’s probably because we are Muslims that authorities seem reluctant to grant us VDCs. Perhaps they think that if they give us VDCs we will pass on our weapons to the militants”, says a Muslim from a village near Kulhand whose application for a VDC in his hamlet was recently turned down. “Many mixed Hindu-Muslim villages, including Kulhand itself, had earlier refused offers of VDCs. They felt that this might create communal divisions and tear apart their centuries’ old harmony, because VDCs are given mainly on communal lines and also because the setting up of a VDC is a sure way to court the wrath of militants”, he goes on. “But now things are changing and there is a sudden demand on the part of people, both Hindus and Muslims, to have VDCs set up in their villages”.

“It is probably in response to this arming of Hindus by the state through the VDCs that many Muslims are now demanding that they, too, be given VDCs”, says a Muslim shopkeeper from Bhalesa. “It may have less to do with fear of militants and probably more to protect themselves against Hindu VDC-walas who, if the Hindutva forces are allowed to have their way, might one day use the VDCs to turn on them, out of sheer spite or in reaction to attacks on Hindus by militants”, he surmises.

“Because of the communalization of the VDCs by the BJP and the administration”, says a Muslim social activist in Doda, “the VDC issue has, particularly after the Kulhand massacre, emerged as a major controversy, further fuelling the communal divide, which can only work to the benefit of Hindutva and Islamist militants It’s like a soda-water bottle, ready to explode when opened”.

With the BJP actively courting and championing the VDCs and the VDC network continually expanding, Doda might possibly descend into an interminable civil war, with the Islamists on one side and many VDCs, working as agents of the Hindutva brigade, on the other, or so several people I met in Doda fear. This would have disastrous consequences for inter-communal relations in the area, further strengthening the hands of Islamist and Hindu militants.

These fears are not completely unfounded. In a village where a Hindu VDC was set up soon after the Kulhand killings, I was told, Hindu lads, allegedly ‘fired by BJP rhetoric’, as my interlocutor put it, fired on the sole Muslim house in order to intimidate its inhabitants. Some days later, when I visited Gandoh tehsil, I was told of a Hindu VDC member who had allegedly shot and killed a Muslim youth, said to be innocent, in revenge for a militant having snatched the gun of a Special Police Officer (SPO) attached to a local BJP activist. I also heard stories, which I could not verify, of VDC members falsely accusing Muslims of being militants and reporting them to the army.

Other similar stories might be told from elsewhere. As a Muslim villager from Thathri put it, “Popular support for militancy is declining in Doda and people are getting fed up of the ongoing violence. But we fear that, rather than working to promote peace and improve inter-communal relations, it might embolden Hindutva militants to rear their heads and use VDCs to attack Muslims. That, of course, will mean that both Muslim and Hindu militants will find greater sympathy, which will put to a firm end all hopes for peace here”.

Many Muslims and several Hindus I met in Doda stress that VDCs, in the form they are presently structured, are not the best way to provide protection to vulnerable villagers. A Hindu living in a hamlet near Kulhand says, “Instead of having VDCs on mainly communal lines, there should be joint VDCs, consisting of both Muslims and Hindus who enjoy the trust and respect of all the people of the village. But, as of now, the government is giving arms to all and sundry, and almost all of them Hindus, in the name of setting up VDCs. Naturally many of our Muslim neighbors are very upset and fearful because of this. If the government wants to continue with the VDCs, the least it should do is to ensure that members of the VDCs are reliable people, who are respected by both communities and who will not misuse their weapons. But this is not the case now”.

Likewise, a Muslim from the same village, a college youth, tells me, “Ideally, it is the duty of the state to provide security, and it should stop sub-contracting this responsibility out to civilians. It should stop shifting the burden of providing security onto the vulnerable shoulders of civilians. Let the militants and army fight each other, why use poor civilians to do this job? It is just like what big foreign companies are doing through call-centres and what not, using Indian cheap labor for raking in massive profits”.

“It’s best”, he insists, “to have security taken over by the police or army, because they at least are meant to be governed by rules and regulations, not like the ruffians many of these VDC members are”. “But”, he adds, “if the government cannot afford the cost of posting policemen and soldiers in every remote village, every VDC, which should consist of both Hindus and Muslims, should be under the command and control of a responsible police officer. It should be coordinated by a team of locals, both Hindus and Muslims, who enjoy the confidence of the entire village, and not just of one community”.

“Frankly”, says an elderly man from Bhadarwah, who insists he is neither a Hindu nor a Muslim but just, as he puts it, “an ordinary mortal”, “more VDCs, at least in the way they are presently structured, are not the way out in the long-run. Because most of them are set up on communal lines and because the BJP has, to a large extent, succeeded in wooing them, they are fuelling the communal divide and thereby only further exacerbating the problem. They are now part of the problem, not of the solution”.

“VDCs should be restructured to be composite, rather than communally exclusive”, he urges. ”But, in any case”, he hurriedly adds, “these are short-term measures. Genuine, lasting peace cannot come about through military means. For that we need a political solution that satisfies all parties to the Kashmir conflict. And we also need to take on Hindu and Muslim extremists, who actually have no love for God and humankind in their hearts”.

“I’m 80 years old now and rapidly approaching my death”, he says, his eyes clouded with tears. “But I fear I won’t see this in my own lifetime”.

He takes my hand in his and mutters a prayer for peace. I turn my face the other side and hold my breath for what seems, for a while, eternity. The sight of the old man softly weeping is simply too much for me to bear.

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Everyone likes the Good Guys:D

VDC guns down 2 most wanted LeT terrorists
7 May 2002
The Daily Excelsior
Excelsior Correspondent
Jammu: The Village Defence Committee (VDC) members today gunned down two hardcore terrorists of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) including a ‘district commander’ Abu Abdul Qazi alias Chotu Pakistani after a fierce gun- battle at village Dammi, Lopara in Dachchan area of Kishtwar tehsil in Doda district. Slain terrorists were categorized as most wanted terrorists and carried a reward of Rs 1.50 lakh on their heads, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Jammu range, Pitambar Lal Gupta said. The reward money would be distributed among the VDC members, who eliminated the terrorists, he added. Official sources said the VDC members rushed to Dammi village in Lopara area after getting an information from the villagers that two hardcore Pakistani terrorists had sneaked into the village with a view to carry out massacre of the minorities. As the pickets of security forces and police were far away, the VDC members took no chance and proceeded to Dammi. They tactfully encircled the hideout of the terrorists and engaged them in encounter. After about half an hour long encounter, the VDC members succeeded in killing both the terrorists. A hideout, where the terrorists had taken shelter, was blasted by the VDC members, who didn’t suffer any casualties in the operation, the sources said. Slain terrorists have been identified as Abu Abdul Qazi alias Chotu Pakistani, a ‘district commander’ and Abu Dujan alias Dujana, a ‘deputy district commander’ of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) outfit, both hailing from Pakistan. From their possession, the VDC members recovered two AK-56 rifles, one wireless set, one grenade and 50 rounds. Sources said the slain terrorists were wanted in a number of subversive activities across Doda district including killing of five civilians at Patti Mahal, Kishtwar in November 2000. They were also wanted in looting cash worth Rs 1.50 lakh from the cashier of Dachchan Higher Secondary School in March 2001. In addition to the incidents of killings and loot, the terrorists were involved in extortions and attacks on security forces. In view of this, they had been placed in the category of ‘most wanted terrorists’ by the district police of Doda. Both carried a reward of Rs 1.50 lakh on their heads. Killing of two top Lashkar commanders was a big blow to the outfit, the sources said. Meanwhile, in another incident, the terrorists opened firing on Sabjian police post in Rajouri district last night. Firing was replied by the police personnel. After about 20 minutes firing, the police party beat back the terrorists’ attack and forced latter to flee, the sources said. No casualties were reported on police side.

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
But every coin has 2 sides:)

The Hindu

Kashmir village defence committees encounter official apathy too

Luv Puri

Repeated demands for improved weaponry have gone unheeded

Against odds: Though the rifles given to Kashmir Village Defence Committees are no match to the militants' weapons, the members keep going. A scene in the remote Pir Panjal mountains of Surankote.

KALAKOTE (RAJOURI): In the interior mountains of Jammu and Kashmir, village defence committees (VDCs) are fighting a two-way battle: against militancy and official apathy. Repeated demands for improved weaponry have gone unheeded.

The State Government in the mid-1990s mooted the concept of VDCs in the remote hills, once a soft target of militants.

Adults of all ages volunteered and registered themselves for the VDCs. They were given .303 rifles. But the weapons were far inferior to those used by militants. Militants use the hilly belt after entering the Line of Control and the VDCs, comprising locals, have to an extent tightened the counter-militancy grid, often at heavy cost what with their poor weaponry.

On Wednesday evening, a group of 20 VDC members of Pouni could not counter a militant attack as their rifles got locked. Two girls were killed and 22 persons injured, while the militants escaped unhurt.

Chowdhary Aslam Khan, a VDC trainer, says: "These men are well-trained, have excellent fighting capabilities and know the local terrain. But the militants have assault rifles, which can fire 50 bullets at a time compared to the .303 rifles, which can fire just a single shot at a time. This is an unequal battle."

In 2001, 15 VDC men were burnt alive by a group of militants armed with assault rifles.
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